In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel of the 7th District Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of Lexter Williams, the fugitive armed home invader captured in Philadelphia, but it ordered that he be resentenced because of errors in his original sentencing.
On Wednesday, the panel ruled that Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court did not abuse her discretion when she denied Williams’ pre-sentence motion to withdraw his guilty plea.
However, the panel ordered the resentencing because of the inconsistency between the 891/2 years of prison time imposed in the Feb. 22, 2011, sentencing hearing, and the 831/2 years in prison imposed in the Aug. 8, 2011, written judgment entry of sentence.
The appeals panel also said Judge Sweeney erred by not inquiring whether some of the offenses he committed “were allied offenses of similar import” that should merge for sentencing purposes, and by not properly informing Williams about parole should he ever be released from prison.
Although it ordered resentencing because of procedural errors, the appeals panel said: “Upon review of the totality of the circumstances, Williams’ sentence was reasonable.” Although Judge Sweeney, “relied heavily on the fact that Williams violated his bond and failed to appear for sentencing, this was an appropriate factor for the court to consider and could indicate a high likelihood of recidivism,” (repeated criminal behavior), the appeals court said.
Williams entered his guilty plea Oct. 28, 2010, to three counts of aggravated robbery, four counts of kidnapping, two counts of aggravated burglary and one count of gross sexual imposition with firearm specifications and to being a felon with a gun in a Jan. 22, 2009, home invasion in the 100 block of Livingston Street on Youngstown’s East Side.
Judge Sweeney freed Williams, 32, of Kendis Circle, from jail on his own recognizance under electronically monitored house arrest after he entered his plea.
The prosecution agreed to recommend a 13-year prison term for him if he showed up for his scheduled Nov. 22, 2010, sentencing, and Judge Sweeney warned him he could be given 95 years in prison if he failed to show up for sentencing.
After Williams fled from his house arrest, Judge Sweeney revoked his bond and issued a warrant for his arrest Nov. 19, 2010. Williams was captured in Philadelphia in January 2011 and returned to Youngstown for sentencing.
Court records show that Williams, now an inmate at the Mansfield Correctional Institution, remained in Mahoning County jail at county expense for about six months between his February sentencing and his conveyance to state prison after the written judgment entry in August. When the county houses inmates in its jail for other jurisdictions, it charges $80 per inmate per day.
Judge Sweeney said late Thursday that she had not read the appeals-court decision and will not comment on the case itself.
However, she said the delay between the sentencing hearing and the written judgment entry was due in part to her bailiff’s wait for a transcript of the sentencing hearing.
The bailiff needed the transcript to ensure the accuracy of the written entry, which was made more complex by the large number of counts on which Williams was sentenced, Judge Sweeney said.
Jay Macejko, former Youngstown prosecutor, raised Williams’ disappearance as an issue in Macejko’s unsuccessful attempt to unseat county Prosecutor Paul J. Gains in this year’s Democratic primary.
The appeals court decision was written by Judge Mary DeGenaro, with Judges Cheryl L. Waite and Gene Donofrio concurring.